Dear University community,
On two occasions this month, students in two of our residence halls discovered words of hate, racism, and misogyny scrawled on the whiteboards that hang outside their doors. The first incident, in Engelhard House on Nov. 1, was not immediately reported, and came to light when we were investigating the Nov. 6 incident in Flather Hall that I addressed in an earlier communication. Using video footage from security cameras, we’ve since confirmed that local juveniles were responsible for the incidents, but that doesn’t change the shock experienced by all members of our campus community.
Our residence halls are home for our students, and words of hate have no place in our community. While it relieves me that those offensive words did not come from the hearts of our Catholic University students, it does pain me that the atmosphere of support, trust, and community was fractured by these acts. The acts themselves leave a wound, regardless of who committed them.
Members of my leadership team, including AVP for Public Safety and Emergency Management Kirk McLean, met Wednesday afternoon with students from the Black Student Alliance and the Flather Hall community to update the students on the investigation. I was proud to hear that our students were very open and honest in expressing the pain and sorrow they felt when they saw those messages of hate on their whiteboards. I want to acknowledge that pain and sorrow, and express my gratitude to those students who shared their experiences.
St. John Paul II once said that it was up to each of us to be a “strong voice” against racism, noting that “every upright conscience cannot but decisively condemn any racism, no matter in what heart or place it is found.” All members of this community should react with equal fervor of condemnation in the face of racist acts taking place in our midst. This is our community, and we cannot allow racism to take up even an inch of this campus.
The Department of Public Safety also confirmed that Catholic University students allowed the juveniles to gain access to both residence halls. We have identified the juveniles, and they are now barred from the University and suspended by their high school. But we all play a role in keeping our community safe. I cannot overstate how important it is that we not allow unknown individuals into campus residence halls. Everyone is responsible for making sure that the doors are closed after entering a card-access secured building and are not propped open at any time for anyone.
Finally, I want to encourage everyone to be sensitive to incidents of racism, sexism, and discrimination on campus. As the Black Student Alliance leadership team wrote in a letter they issued Wednesday, “Racism not only divides communities and fosters hatred, but it also hinders social growth and harmony.” I agree wholeheartedly that “we must actively work as a campus community to confront racism by promoting understanding, empathy, and respect for all people, regardless of their racial or ethnic background.”
I still hear sometimes that students don’t know how to report these incidents, or that the administration doesn’t listen or take them seriously. I want you to know that I am very interested in hearing about every incident of racism, discrimination, or sexism on our campus. You can always write to me here, file a report here, or just come to Nugent Hall. I can’t promise that I will be personally available, but I will make every effort to sit down with you as soon as possible. That is my promise.
Together we can create a genuine culture of encounter and community here at Catholic University. We all have our roles to play to keep the campus safe, to call out racism when we see it, and above all, to keep Christ in the center of all we do.